When I was very little, going to a restaurant was a once a year treat. My memories are as clear as my first taste of consommé. With eight children in my family, there were so many to feed.
I think my father had to save up all year to pay the bill. On one outing for my parents’ anniversary in February, I remember it being dark when we arrived. I must have been about six or seven, but I felt so grown up. The whole family was present – mum, dad, the grannies, seven brothers and sisters and their partners. It was all very posh so we were warned in advance to behave.
My siblings never need much of a distraction to break rank but the starter tipped the family into hysterical laughter. We had never eaten a pumpkin, never mind had it turned into soup. My mother didn’t like the giggling but it stopped when we picked up the spoons. I loved the sweet, creamy soup instantly.
I am describing a scene almost 40 years ago but the taste is as clear as if it happened yesterday. The food would have been local and it would have been in season and it was a total treat. We’re not growing pumpkin in our kitchen garden, but the squash are so beautiful. In season and local they are just perfect for this soup recipe.
They have been sitting pretty since August but will be ready for picking this month. While pumpkins and squash are good to go now, we’ve got a few weeks left for wild mushrooms and it’s the ideal time for walnuts in Scotland, so hopefully all the flavours in these recipes will have you feeling happy but without the hysterics.
1kg pumpkin or squash (peeled weight), seeds removed and chopped into chunks
400g onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1.2 litres vegetable stock
2 ripe pears
50g walnuts, lightly toasted in the oven
1 tbsp walnut oil
5-6 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh mint leaves, stalks removed, washed and dried
3 cloves garlic, one finely sliced
1 tbsp honey
100ml Greek yoghurt
500g mixed wild mushrooms, wiped clean and trimmed
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
4 thick slices sourdough bread
2 x 20cm non-stick cake tins lined with greaseproof paper on the bottom and buttered around the edges
225g unsalted butter at room temperature
225g light brown sugar
2 large free-range eggs
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g ground toasted walnuts
4 shots espresso or 4 tsps instant coffee dissolved in 100ml of hot water
a little milk
300g icing sugar
50ml double cream
espresso coffee beans or walnut halves to decorate